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THE CONFIDENT COOK

Recipe: Hortopita, a Greek pie of greens and feta in phyllo dough, is a country cousin to familiar spanakopita

Hortopita (Greek Swiss Chard and Feta Pie).
Hortopita (Greek Swiss Chard and Feta Pie).Sally Pasley Vargas

Makes one 10-inch pie or enough to serve 4

The Greek pie hortopita is the country cousin of familiar spanakopita (spinach pie). It's a spring dish, and in Greece it would be made with wild greens (horto) such as chervil, purslane, nettles, or the feathery fronds of fennel and plenty of herbs. With neither a Peloponnese mountain nor a fresh green sprout in sight, this version uses a combination of Swiss chard with fresh mint, parsley, and dill. The greens and herbs are the stars here, combined with a salty spike of feta and wrapped in a phyllo-lined tart or pie pan. Tissue paper-thin sheets of phyllo (or filo) dough are easy to find in local Greek or Mediterranean markets, and in most supermarket freezers. If you are buying frozen dough, leave it in its box in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. You will probably only need half a box for this pie, but the other half can be wrapped in plastic wrap and returned to the freezer for at least two months. Make the filling first and then unroll the fragile dough sheets. Since they dry out quickly, cover the stack of sheets with a damp dishtowel as you work. Don’t worry too much about a few tears in the dough. That's a given and you can patch them easily, or cover them with more sheets. Brush each thin sheet with melted butter, or if you prefer, olive oil, and stack four on the bottom and top of the pie to create crispy layers to encase the filling. One trick to spreading the dough quickly with butter is to drizzle the butter over the sheet and spread it with your hand. Messy, but very effective. Score the top of the pie with a sharp knife to make six wedges and allow steam to escape; this also makes the pie easier to cut after it bakes. Welcome spring with this herbaceous vegetarian treat.

8tablespoons butter or olive oil, or more if needed
1small bunch fresh Swiss chard, well rinsed
2tablespoons olive oil
1bunch scallions, thinly sliced (including some dark green parts)
½cup chopped fresh mint
½cup chopped fresh parsley
cup chopped fresh dill
3tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4ounces feta, crumbled
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8sheets (about 1/2 pound) phyllo dough, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator if frozen

1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Brush a 10-inch pie pan or ceramic tart or quiche pan with some of the butter or olive oil.

2. Separate the chard stems from their leaves. Cut the stems into 1/2-inch pieces. Stack the leaves and cut across them to slice them into thin shreds.

3. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the chard stems and scallions, and cook, stirring often, for 6 minutes, or until softened. Add the chard leaves, and cook, turning with tongs, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the chard wilts and the water that clings to the leaves evaporates. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the mint, parsley, dill, and oregano. Cool briefly.

4. Stir the eggs, feta, lemon rind, and pepper into the filling.

5. Unwrap the phyllo and set the stack of sheets next to the pie or tart pan. You will use 4 sheets for the bottom of the pie and 4 sheets for the top. Working quickly, brush 1 sheet with butter and set it in the pan. Press it into the corners of the pan, letting the sheet hang over the top edges. Continue to butter the remaining 4 sheets and place them in the pan in a star pattern, so that the overhang is evenly distributed all around the edge of the pan. It will look a little messy, but it will be fine in the end.

6. Spread the filling evenly in the pan. Top with 4 more buttered sheets of phyllo, placing them in a star pattern as before. With scissors, trim the phyllo around the top edge, leaving a 1 1/2-inch overhang. Tuck the outside edge under itself like a hem, twisting it as you tuck it under, to create a border all around the pie. Use a sharp knife to cut through the top layer and the border of the phyllo to make 6 wedges.

7. Bake the pie for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Cut the pie into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature. It's best on the same day it is made.

Sally Pasley Vargas

Makes one 10-inch pie or enough to serve 4

The Greek pie hortopita is the country cousin of familiar spanakopita (spinach pie). It's a spring dish, and in Greece it would be made with wild greens (horto) such as chervil, purslane, nettles, or the feathery fronds of fennel and plenty of herbs. With neither a Peloponnese mountain nor a fresh green sprout in sight, this version uses a combination of Swiss chard with fresh mint, parsley, and dill. The greens and herbs are the stars here, combined with a salty spike of feta and wrapped in a phyllo-lined tart or pie pan. Tissue paper-thin sheets of phyllo (or filo) dough are easy to find in local Greek or Mediterranean markets, and in most supermarket freezers. If you are buying frozen dough, leave it in its box in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. You will probably only need half a box for this pie, but the other half can be wrapped in plastic wrap and returned to the freezer for at least two months. Make the filling first and then unroll the fragile dough sheets. Since they dry out quickly, cover the stack of sheets with a damp dishtowel as you work. Don’t worry too much about a few tears in the dough. That's a given and you can patch them easily, or cover them with more sheets. Brush each thin sheet with melted butter, or if you prefer, olive oil, and stack four on the bottom and top of the pie to create crispy layers to encase the filling. One trick to spreading the dough quickly with butter is to drizzle the butter over the sheet and spread it with your hand. Messy, but very effective. Score the top of the pie with a sharp knife to make six wedges and allow steam to escape; this also makes the pie easier to cut after it bakes. Welcome spring with this herbaceous vegetarian treat.

8tablespoons butter or olive oil, or more if needed
1small bunch fresh Swiss chard, well rinsed
2tablespoons olive oil
1bunch scallions, thinly sliced (including some dark green parts)
½cup chopped fresh mint
½cup chopped fresh parsley
cup chopped fresh dill
3tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4ounces feta, crumbled
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8sheets (about 1/2 pound) phyllo dough, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator if frozen

1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Brush a 10-inch pie pan or ceramic tart or quiche pan with some of the butter or olive oil.

2. Separate the chard stems from their leaves. Cut the stems into 1/2-inch pieces. Stack the leaves and cut across them to slice them into thin shreds.

3. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the chard stems and scallions, and cook, stirring often, for 6 minutes, or until softened. Add the chard leaves, and cook, turning with tongs, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the chard wilts and the water that clings to the leaves evaporates. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the mint, parsley, dill, and oregano. Cool briefly.

4. Stir the eggs, feta, lemon rind, and pepper into the filling.

5. Unwrap the phyllo and set the stack of sheets next to the pie or tart pan. You will use 4 sheets for the bottom of the pie and 4 sheets for the top. Working quickly, brush 1 sheet with butter and set it in the pan. Press it into the corners of the pan, letting the sheet hang over the top edges. Continue to butter the remaining 4 sheets and place them in the pan in a star pattern, so that the overhang is evenly distributed all around the edge of the pan. It will look a little messy, but it will be fine in the end.

6. Spread the filling evenly in the pan. Top with 4 more buttered sheets of phyllo, placing them in a star pattern as before. With scissors, trim the phyllo around the top edge, leaving a 1 1/2-inch overhang. Tuck the outside edge under itself like a hem, twisting it as you tuck it under, to create a border all around the pie. Use a sharp knife to cut through the top layer and the border of the phyllo to make 6 wedges.

7. Bake the pie for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Cut the pie into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature. It's best on the same day it is made.Sally Pasley Vargas